A Stampede of Accusations Threatens Carousel Ranch
Carousel Ranch has been providing therapeutic horseback riding for the disabled since 1997, but a recent lawsuit may bring the therapeutic sessions to a halt.
According to a lawsuit filed by Carousel Ranch neighbor David Leonard, the ranch violates a number of county ordinances that put it out of compliance with its conditional use permit.
Leonard's attorney Todd Cardiff says teh issues include, a riding arena built in a major flood zone, little supervision of children in a high fire hazard zone and an unpermitted mobile home built too close to the property line.
"The goal is to make sure that the public is protected and also to make sure Mr. Leonard is protected," said Cardiff.
Another issue that Leonard wants to see addressed is the use of felons to clear brush around the facility. The lawsuit claims that, "orange suited prisoners have been seen walking freely on the property, making repairs, clearing brush and interacting with and around disabled children."
Carousel Ranch has used fire crews from Camp 11 in the past to do manual labor projects around the ranch, which include convicted felons, according to Denise Tomey, executive director of Carousel Ranch.
"It was a win win situation; they were assisting with things on the property, saving the ranch money that we couldn't afford to spend," said Tomey. "To insinuate that we have prisoners teaching the children is completely unfounded, our volunteers don't even teach the children. We have trained instructors working with the children."
In light of the claims the county maintains that Carousel Ranch is in compliance with all terms of their conditional use permit.
"All of the issues raised in the lawsuit were issues raised prior to approval and have been considered and handled through the permit process," said Larry Hafetz principal county counsel for Los Angeles County. "The county believes that there is no validity to those [the lawsuits] claims."
According to Tomey, the ranch shares a road with six other properties and they are on good terms with all of those individuals.
"Durring the permit process there were neighbors that had concerns, and we met with everyone and were able to work out everything with every neighbor," said Tomey.
She claims that Leonard is only slightly impacted by the activities at the ranch because he only uses his home on the weekends.
"Out of all the neighbors we impact I would think we impact him least because he doesn't live here," said Tomey. "On most weekends we overlap by six hours, we teach from 9 -2 on a Saturday."
Despite the County's beliefs that the lawsuit is frivolous, the lawsuit continues, seeking to stop activities at Carousel Ranch until an environmental impact study has been completed.
Tomey believes that this study could cost the ranch hundreds of thousands of dollars and take a great deal of time.
"Its unfortunate because every hour that were not with the kids or raising money for the kids, and every dollar we spend on things that a lawsuit entails takes away from the program and what is important," said Tomey.
Photo courtsey of http://www.carouselranch.org